Re: Pitch Memory (Peter Marvit )

Subject: Re: Pitch Memory
From:    Peter Marvit  <marvit(at)CATTELL.PSYCH.UPENN.EDU>
Date:    Fri, 11 Aug 1995 12:15:08 -0400

Don Hill wrote: > A personal anecdote: One of the ditty's required a key-pitch prompt > before my big solo. During the opening night performance, I didn't > wait for the prompt and launched into the song. To the accompanist's > amazement, I was in perfect pitch - the piano and chorus joined in > without a bump. While I will not generalize to the problem of perfect/approximate pitch at ball games (since we know most sports fanatics are pathological), I would add some personal experience to Don Hill's anecdote and speculate on possible generalization to normal populations. In college, I participated in a study which attempted to teach "perfect pitch", albeit one note at a time. My note was C. We were required to hum and sing our pitch, as well as listen. I actually got very good at it. Even these many years later, I can within a semi-tone of C (and from there to any relative pitch). However, I attribute much of my residual acquired pitch to "motor memory." That is, I know how it feels to sing a C, especially in relation to the comfortable end-points of my vocal range. I would (at partially) explain Don's remarkable performance in terms of motor memory as well. Speculation: Perhaps the apparent pitch memory of ordinary folks (e.g., Happy Birthday, Na na na, etc.) can be similarly attributed. Further speculative question: Would the pitch identification of people with perfect pitch be effected by simultaneous co-articulation (i.e., somehow interfering with reconstructive motor memory?). To a certain degree, this speculation smacks of the motor theory of speech recognition. Perhaps someone sager than I can point out relevant studies? -Peter "2B, not 2C" Marvit : Peter Marvit <marvit(at)>, Psychology Dept, Univ. of Penn : : 3815 Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104 w:215/573-3991 fax:215/898-7301 :

This message came from the mail archive
maintained by:
DAn Ellis <>
Electrical Engineering Dept., Columbia University